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8 May 2024

A Comprehensive Guide to Low Poly 3D Models and its Application

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The world of 3D modeling is dynamic. It has revolutionized industries by enabling digital prototyping, immersive simulations, and visualizations. It drives innovation and efficiency in various dynamics like product design, architecture, and entertainment.

In the current scenario, low poly models are gaining popularity for 3D applications. They use a few polygons with minimalistic geometric design. The utilization of low poly 3D models balances visual fidelity and resource efficiency, making them ideal for real-time applications such as gaming and augmented reality experiences.

Simplified geometry and reduced polygon count streamline rendering processes, enabling smoother performance on various devices and platforms. Additionally, in game development, low poly models positively impact the game by increasing performance and rendering.

Simple low poly 3D characters play the role of NPCs or background figures in the form of entertainment for games.

Essentials of low-poly 3D models

A Comprehensive Guide to Low Poly 3D Models and its Application 1

Optimization, Polycount, Decimation etc, together ensure a quality low poly 3D model.

3D modeling involves creating digital representations of objects or environments with a limited number of polygons, typically ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. However, there are no significant characteristics to differentiate between low and high-polygon models.

A polycount of 1 to 10000 is the comprehensive low-polygon model range. For instance, a cube with eight vertices and twelve triangles forming six faces is typically a low-poly representation. However, when each face of the cube is further subdivided into a grid of smaller squares or triangles, the model can have a high polygon count. Let’s take a look at the essential aspects.

  • Polycount

Low poly 3D models use fewer triangles or quads to define the object's shape. Polycounts can vary depending on the intricacy and level of detail required for the model. The number of polycounts depends on the visual complexity of a model. For instance, a metallic or shiny product generally needs a high polycount, but in the case of Leaning Pisa, it can be a low-poly model. Some designs may not require visual characteristics with a high level of detail. The smooth surface can be adequately represented with fewer polygons without sacrificing the overall appearance.

  • Optimization

Techniques such as edge loops, edge flow, and polygon merging help maintain smooth surfaces and avoid artefactsartifacts while keeping the polygon count low. Efficient 3D modeling techniques are crucial to achieving a low polygon count while retaining the object's essence. This may include the removal of unnecessary vertices and avoiding complex textures without losing the desired shape.

  • Retopology

Retopology is another significant factor that helps reduce polygon count to allow for UV unwrapping and proper deformation. It's recreating a high-resolution mesh with a simplified topology and fewer polygons. The process is widely popular when converting models into usable assets in game or film projects.

  • Decimation

Decimation simplifies the underlying shapes. It involves reducing the number of vertices, edges, or faces that make up the polygon surface, which forms the building blocks of a 3D model. The process can be set up without substantially changing the visible shape, volume, and boundaries of the 3D model.

  • UV Mapping and Texture

UV mapping is essential for effectively applying textures to low poly 3D models. Proper UV unwrapping ensures that textures are applied without distortion or stretching. Using higher-resolution textures can compensate for the lack of geometry detail. Since models have fewer polygons, textures play a significant role in conveying details.

  • Normal Mapping and Baking

Normal mapping adds the illusion of high-resolution detail to low-poly models. It involves creating a texture map that stores surface normals to simulate bumps, creases, and other fine details.

Baking is transferring high-resolution detail from a high-poly model to a low poly 3D modeling. This can include transferring textures, normal maps, ambient occlusion, and other information to enhance the visual quality of the low-polycount model. For instance, an old car may have rust at its bottom. Baking lets us know where the bottom is on the mesh, which will feed the rust generator and produce the adapted texture.

FUN FACT- All-time favorite titles like Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy VII are applauded for their storytelling and gameplay while employing low-poly 3D assets to enhance the experience.

Optimization of high poly models to low poly models

A Comprehensive Guide to Low Poly 3D Models and its Application 2

Did you know for every low poly model, you first need to make a high poly model.

The optimization process involves reducing the polygon count while ensuring that essential details and visual fidelity are preserved. The process involves:

  • Manual Optimization Techniques
  1. The decimation tools in 3D modeling software (e.g., Blender's Decimate modifier) automatically reduce the polygon count while attempting to preserve vital details.
  2. Running retopology involves strategically creating edge loops and polygons to capture the original model's essential shape and silhouette.
  3. Polygon reduction involves selectively removing unnecessary geometry or detail from the high-poly model using 3D modeling tools.
  • Automated optimization techniques
  1. Usage of Level of details (LOD) generation tools for simplified versions of the high-poly model enable reduced polygon counts.
  2. Integration of procedural mesh simplification algorithms automatically reduce the polygon count while attempting to preserve vital details.
  • Preserving details
  1. Techniques like normal mapping, displacement mapping, or baking high-poly details into texture maps help maintain surface details without relying on geometry.
  • Testing and iteration
  1. An overall evaluation of factors such as frame rate, rendering quality, and appearance is conducted to identify areas requiring further optimization or refinement.
  • Fine-tuning
  1. Fine-tuning involves a low poly 3D modeling to balance polygon count, visual fidelity, and performance.

Considerations for real-time rendering of low poly models

A Comprehensive Guide to Low Poly 3D Models and its Application 3

Did you know, BattleZone released in 1980 was the first game to fully leverage 3D models.

Low poly 3D models are commonly used in real-time applications, including video games and virtual reality experiences. Optimizing for real-time rendering involves:

  • Reducing draw calls.
  • Optimizing shaders.
  • Implementing LOD (Level of Detail) systems.
  • Minimizing overdraw to ensure smooth performance on various platforms and devices.

Low poly 3D models are efficient for rendering in real-time as they require less computational power. This allows projects to run smoothly in a broader range of hardware.

Real-time rendering can be affected due to various factors,

Hardware issues: Issues such as insufficient GPU processing power or inadequate RAM can lead to slowdowns or glitches in real-time rendering

File build size: It impedes real-time rendering by increasing loading times, reducing frame rates, and potentially causing memory overflows, leading to performance degradation.

Weight of models: It increases computational demands, potentially causing delays in rendering, lowered frame rates, or even system crashes.

FUN FACT- Low-poly 3D assets are particularly favored when working with AR/VR Projects, as they have limited computation power and require low latency.

Major applications of low poly 3D modeling

A Comprehensive Guide to Low Poly 3D Models and its Application 4

Low poly 3D modeling has some major applications like in AR/VR, VFX, E-commerce, game assets and much more.

Low poly 3D models are widely used across various industries and platforms. They are extensively utilized in video game development, where their efficient resource usage and optimized rendering performance enhance gameplay experiences across consoles, PCs, and mobile devices.

  • Virtual reality

In virtual reality, low poly 3D characters enable users to explore environments seamlessly and interact with objects while ensuring compatibility across a wide range of VR hardware. They contribute to optimized performance and smooth frame rates, crucial for maintaining immersion. Low poly models are ideal for developing virtual reality experiences, simulations, and training programs. These models facilitate expansive virtual environments in VR applications without taxing hardware resources.

  • Augmented reality

Low poly 3D models for AR applications seamlessly overlay lightweight virtual objects onto the real world. It improves performance, reducing battery consumption. There's optimal usability and immersion for users engaging with AR content in various contexts.

  • Cinema NPCs

The stylized aesthetic of low polycount models for NPCs contributes to a film's overall visual style, enhancing its artistic appeal while maintaining consistency across characters and environments. Low poly 3D models are commonly utilized for non-player characters (NPCs) in cinema due to their efficient rendering and animation capabilities i.e., VFX and cinemas.

  • E-commerce

Low poly 3D models help optimize website performance by reducing load times and enhancing user experience, particularly on mobile devices, where resource-heavy assets can hinder page loading speeds. E-commerce platforms can showcase products more effectively, increasing engagement and conversion rates.

  • Game assets

With the growth in mobile gaming and virtual reality, low poly 3D characters have become even more prevalent due to their ability to run efficiently on lower-end hardware. These 3D assets require less time and effort to create compared to high poly counterparts, allowing for quicker iteration and development cycles.

FUN FACT- Low-poly graphics were not originally a stylistic choice but a necessity. Early 3D games like the PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 used low-poly models because the hardware could only render a limited number of polygons.

The impact of 3D printing with low poly models

A Comprehensive Guide to Low Poly 3D Models and its Application 5

Low poly 3D prints have a very unique aesthetic appeal loved by many 3D printing enthusiasts.

Low poly 3D models offer simplified geometry, which ensures a smoother printing process with fewer issues related to overhangs, supports, and intricate details.

These low poly 3D characters typically require less material and printing time than high-poly models, making them ideal for rapid prototyping and small-scale production. Their simplified geometry also ensures smoother printing processes.

Focusing on critical features and maintaining a clean topology can achieve visually appealing results suitable for various applications, from artistic sculptures to functional prototypes.

These models can be quickly modified and adapted to accommodate design changes or client feedback, enabling faster iteration cycles and shorter time-to-market for 3D-printed products and prototypes.

Streamlined pipeline for creating bulk low poly models

Ikarus 3D is a leading 3D modeling company that runs a bespoke model creation process where managed services can handle every situation, including large-scale projects. We can generate and deliver optimized 3D models efficiently.

Under the analysis of our 3D artists, skilled team members from Ikarus 3D can develop high-quality low-poly models. We create various low-poly assets as per the requirement.

Ikarus 3D maintains extensive libraries of pre-made low-poly models that can be customized and reused across different projects. These libraries include objects, characters, props, and scenery, enabling quick access to ready-made assets. Our experts will easily define diverse objects, such as buildings, trees, rocks, and other environmental elements.


Low-poly 3D models have substantial benefits despite many constraints and limitations. A professional company may not only save costs but also craft seamless customer experiences. Businesses can also dive into emerging markets with more significant opportunities.